October 31, 2011, 12:56 PM

Twitter expands the reach of Promoted Tweets

Retailers can use the tool to reach consumers who don’t follow their brands.   

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For the first time Twitter is enabling marketers to use its Promoted Tweets paid ad service to reach consumers who aren’t searching for, or following, the retailer’s brand.

The microblogging service today launched Promoted Tweets in Timelines, which enables a marketer to pay to target a consumer with a Twitter message, or tweet, based on his location, demographics or interests. The messages appear like any other tweet in a consumer’s Timeline, the first page he sees upon logging on to Twitter.com. However, below the message is a note that highlights the message is being sponsored.

The sponsored tweets come from the same stock of regular tweets generated by Twitter users’ accounts. However, the messages appear at the top of a consumer’s Timeline, which helps ensure their messages are read. Marketers pay for the messages on a cost-per-engagement basis, which means payment is due when a consumer clicks, retweets, replies to, or clicks to the Favorite button to store the message.

Impressions are free when a consumer retweets the message, and the microblogging service says that’s a good reason for marketers to make their messages engaging.

Twitter is slowly rolling out the new format. It says roughly a quarter of users will see Promoted Tweets in their Timelines today.

Today’s move is the latest step in Twitter’s efforts to monetize its substantial traffic; Twitter.com attracted 27 million U.S. visitors in May, according to comScore Inc. Aiming to turn that traffic into revenue, Twitter launched Promoted Tweets in search in April 2010. Those messages appear at the top of search results. It then expanded the program in July by enabling brands to target Promoted Tweets to their followers. That tool enables marketers to reach followers who might have missed a retailer’s original, organic tweet. Those messages appear at, or near the top of, a consumer’s Timeline.

“Promoted Tweets allow brands to spread their message in ways that engage users and drive conversations about their products,” reads a blog post in Twitter’s advertising blog. The microblogging service says that the impression volume of Promoted Tweets in search is 15 times that of other posts on Twitter.com.

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